How to lead like an astronaut

1959, 1968 and 2019. These dates represent three firsts in the history of space travel.


On September 12, 1959, the Luna-2, launched by the Soviet Union's Luna programme, was the first spacecraft in history to reach the surface of the moon. On December 21, 1968, Apollo 8, launched by the United States' Apollo Space program, was the first manned spaceflight mission to orbit the moon and return to Earth. Just last week, on February 22, 2019, SpaceIL, an Israeli organization, launched its Beresheet lander, hoping to become the fourth country (after the United States, Russia, and China) to land a spacecraft on the moon.



A note of irony can be uncovered between the Apollo 8 and Beresheet lander missions. Israel's spacecraft is named after the first book of the Bible- Bereshit-Genesis, which means "in the beginning." The name was chosen by the public, and "symbolizes the beginning of a new space era in Israel". Aboard the craft, a digital time capsule was loaded with electronic files: "including the Bible... memories of a Holocaust survivor, Israel’s national anthem, the country’s national flag and a copy of Israel's Declaration of Independence."

NASA's Apollo 8 Earthrise view on Dec. 24, 1968

On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8's astronaut team- Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and William Anders, prepared to deliver a live broadcast that would be heard by the largest audience in human history.


Media experts estimated that 1 billion people would tune in for the event. The crew on the spacecraft had been given one instruction for the broadcast which was: "Say something appropriate."


The camera started to roll; after the astronauts provided a brief summary of their activities, Anders said, "for all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send to you." The astronauts voices began to recite the words from the beginning of the book of Genesis:

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. . . . And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. . . And God saw that it was good.”

Each of these moments pushed the boundaries of human possibility to "boldly go where no man has gone before", and move the proverbial yardstick of human history forward. To lead like one of the astronauts or space experts in the stories above requires one to reflect on the following points:



  • Say something appropriate In his recent bestseller Rocket Men, Robert Kurson wrote of NASA headquarter's reaction to the live broadcast from Apollo 8's crew: "Inside Mission Control, no one moved. Then, one after another, those scientists and engineers in Houston began to cry." Through words, leaders can motivate, unify, and inspire; they can also hurt, discourage, and alienate.



It's time to embark on your next mission; lead like an astronaut.

12 views

FJL is a member of 

Jewish Futures Logo Purple.png

Forum for Jewish Leadership is a registered charity in England and Wales (no. 1139858) and a company limited by guarantee (no. 07453042)

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon